Director: Gints Zilbalodis
Running Time: 75 mins
Away is a Latvian film about a young boy who makes a journey across a landscape, while being pursued by an ominous creature.
An undeniably gorgeous visual spectacle it may be, but Away doesn’t quite put you under a spell in the way it really should. Short and simple, the film doesn’t have a powerfully other-worldly atmosphere, and as such comes off as more of a simple adventure story than something a little more resonant.
Of course, for a dialogue-less, 75 minute-long animated movie, it’s unlikely that there is going to be enough space or time to tell a really moving story. However, those characteristics should really be an asset to Away, rather than a hindrance.
Starting off with a distinct air of mystery, the film lands you in a far-away land with a young boy trying to escape an unnerving beast. It’s not scary, but everything is just strange enough to wrong-foot you, making the film a gripping prospect from the start.
The problem, however, is that the story which follows doesn’t really play on harsher, more exciting themes. Certainly, its adventure plot plays into ideas of growing up and becoming self-confident, but I felt that the film was missing a certain urgency and intrigue that could have played out in the chase between the two main characters.
In the end, the creature that pursues the young boy is far from ominous and terrifying, but rather little more than a plot device, and pales in comparison to the mysterious and terrifying likes of No-Face from Spirited Away.
That lack of intensity and urgency means that Away isn’t a particularly enthralling watch, never having the emotional presence to really put you in a trance as you watch its story unfold.
However, what is undeniably enchanting about the film is its visual splendour. With unorthodox animation that at first looks like half-rendered 3D, the movie cleverly blends 2D and 3D animation to create a soft yet still eye-catching effect, bolstered by gorgeous landscapes and natural scenery throughout.
The film’s greatest asset is its visuals, and while the story may not quite have the enchanting power it aims for, it’s difficult to take your eyes away from the range of gorgeous and serene paintings that the characters find themselves in, with the journey across the ‘Mirror Lake’ a particular highlight.
Overall, Away isn’t quite the powerfully moving and entrancing animation it aims to be, lacking a gripping story and more intense, enthralling themes. However, it’s an undeniably gorgeous watch, with beautiful visuals and elements of good mystery and imagination throughout, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.